Shining a Light on Photosynthesis

We’ve got even more facts for you to share with your class, together with some fun experiments your young learners can try out at home – from testing for chlorophyll to witnessing how plants transform carbon dioxide and sunlight into food.

9 Photo Fast Facts

Whether you’re planning your next lesson or getting ready for a pop quiz – here are some facts all about photosynthesis to brighten up your class! You can blank out certain words or statistics and ask your students to go online, find out what they are and fill in the correct answers too…
1. Photosynthesis collects approximately 130 terawatts of energy from the sun’s rays.
2. When plants change light energy into chemical energy, the latter is stored as the sugary substance, glucose.
3. Photosynthesis mainly occurs in the leaves, with very little happening in the rest of the plant.
4. Chlorophyll is the chemical that gives plants their green colour and converts the sunlight they receive into chemical energy (it’s found in chloroplasts in leaf cells).
5. Plants can only convert up to 8% of sunlight into energy.
6. The word ‘photosynthesis’ originates from the Greek for “light” (photo) and “to put together” (synthesis), which refers to the sunlight, plus the combination of water and carbon dioxide that produce food (glucose and proteins).
7. Photosynthetic organisms are at the base or foundation of the food chain because they are ‘primary producers’, which means they can produce their own food.
8. The process of photosynthesis needs plenty of light, carbon dioxide and water – nitrogen and phosphorus are required too.
9. The chemical equation for photosynthesis is: 6CO2 + 12H2O + light = C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O. Therefore, 6 carbon dioxide molecules plus 12 water molecules plus light (from the sun) equals the production of glucose plus 6 oxygen molecules plus 6 water molecules.

3 Fun Photosynthesis Experiments

Here are 3 experiments your class can try out at home – with the help and supervision of their parents! Why not ask your students to map-out their experiments, complete with a hypothesis, method, results and conclusion?

1. Testing for Chlorophyll

This is to show your students how the light and temperature can affect the production of chlorophyll (especially in the autumn).
→ Get some leaves from outside (preferably different colours) and place the leaves into a pot of boiling water for approximately 5 minutes.
→ Fill small containers with rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit with the help of an adult while the leaves are being boiled. You’ll need one container for each leaf (these can be test tubes or glasses – remember to handle with care!).
→ After 5 minutes, carefully take out the leaves from the pot of boiling water (we recommend using tongs) and place each one in the individual small containers.
→ Leave the leaves to soak in the alcohol overnight – but keep checking throughout the day to see how the colour of the alcohol changes.
Record the colour changes and differences between the leaves and discuss your finding with the class.

2. Comparing Sunlight to Shade

Explain how the lack of light prevents photosynthesis from happening, which is displayed by the difference in plant growth.
→ Get your class (with the help of their parents) to get two small fast-growing plants (like a hydrangea or bamboo) with pots to grow inside.
→ Then, ask your students to keep one plant in the sunlight (on a windowsill, for example) and another in the shade (like a dark room or cupboard).
→ Students need to water both plants throughout the week.
→ After a week, ask your students to photograph and discuss their results by explaining why they think the plant left in the sunlight looks healthier than the plant kept in the shade.

3. Turning Gas and Water into Food

Show your young learners the chemical response of photosynthesis when CO2 and H2O are converted into food energy.
→ Gather some small plants from the garden (with your parent’s permission!) or purchase some from the garden centre.
→ Fill some test tubes or glass containers with water and place the small plants inside individual containers.
→ Don’t forget to close/ plug up the tops of the test tubes/ glass containers once the plants are inside.
→ Ask your students to keep watching their plant containers, as soon they will observe bubbles appearing on the inside walls of the test tubes.

Get more Science Experiments at Empiribox @ Home

We hope your class enjoyed experimenting with photosynthesis! Why not learn more from our KS1-KS2 activities exploring Plants & Light and Photosynthesis with Empiribox @ Home?
To help prevent education gaps during COVID-19 and to make remote learning as fun as possible, we want to support teachers (and parents too!) with Empiribox @ Home. This includes access to an extensive library of KS1 and KS2 curriculum-aligned science resources for their students – including interactive videos, worksheets, quizzes, adapted hands-on experiments and more! – all while they learn from home or back in the classroom.
Click here to discover more about Empiribox @ Home here.